Throughout the course of the novel, we read about a myriad amount of troublesome practices. Many of these cultural practices were considered harmful and unacceptable by outside societies such as the Europeans. Societies that were involved in such practices were deemed as “barbarians” and “savages” by the ethnocentric Europeans. In this paper, I will argue that Europeans were not justified in condemning the Igbo people because the Europeans took it upon themselves to impose their own belief system on them. I personally do not support or condone these actions but that does not necessarily justify European conquest. The fact that these practices take place does not mean that they must be christianized.
In Chapter two, we see some evidence of how the village has its own legal system which might not be the same as the Europeans’ but they do have a system in place that they follow. The clansmen are asked to gather in the market through the rings of the ogene and it is announced that someone from the village of Mbaino murdered the wife of an Umuofia tribesman while she was in their market. Okonkwo then travels to Mbaino to inform them of the message to hand over a virgin and a young boy to Umuofia. Mbaino agrees to handing over the virgin and the fifteen year old boy.1
In Chapter three we learn that Unoka, Okonkwo’s father, died of a swelling which was an abomination to the earth goddess. “When a man was afflicted with swelling in the stomach and the lims he was not allowed to die in the house. He was carried to the Evil Forest and left there to die.” Since the sickness was an abomination to earth, the victim could not be buried in their bowels. 2 We also see many examples of practices that take place in the Igbo such as the sharing of palm wine and kola nuts in Chapter four during the Week of Peace. Achebe describes the complexity of the Igbo at the same time as the peacefulness of their culture.
When we look at why the Igbo would partake in these practices we should always keep in mind that there is a system of behavior in place that the Igbo are expected to conform to. We definitely see this when Ezeani, the priest of the earth goddess punished Okonkwo by asking him to bring in the shrine of Ani a goat, a hen, a length of cloth, and a hundred cowries as punishment for beating his wife during the Week of Peace. “...Our forefathers ordained that before we plant any crops in the earth we should observe a week in which man does not say a harsh word to his neighbor. We live in peace with our fellows to honor our great goddess of earth without whose blessing our crops will not grow.” 3
In Chapter seven, we read about how Ezeudu, the oldest man in this quarter of Umuofia, informs Okonkwo that the Oracle had ordered that Okemufuna be killed. “That boy calls you father. Do not bear a hand in his death.” 4 The murder of the hostage Ikemefuna, had to have been one of the most troublesome practices that took place in the course of the story because of...